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Porca Miseria - Triple Bill

Trajal Harrell

Performer Trajal Harrell poses against a pink background.

Voguing, Japanese butoh, ancient Greek theatre, performance art and contemporary dance – American choreographer Trajal Harrell conjures up an elegant, subtle vocabulary from a wide range of genres.

This major new trilogy is based on the stories and battles of three very different, but equally strong women: Maggie from Tennessee's Williams Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the African-American choreographer and activist Katherine Dunham, and the Greek mythological Medea.  Through them Harrell explores issues of identity, gender, sexuality and power in a compelling way, breaking down the boundaries between dance, theatre, cinema and the visual arts. 

Renowned American choreographer Trajal Harrell returns to the Barbican following Hoochie Koochie in 2017. Porca Miseria premiered at Holland Festival in June 2022 where it received critical acclaim. 

Step onto the Barbican stage for the intimate part one, Deathbed which is both art installation and performance. Then take a seat in the auditorium to experience the climactic final two parts.

5.00pm or 6.15pm
1 hr 15 mins

Interval (1-2 hrs)

O Medea (short film): 25 mins
Maggie the Cat: 1 hr

Age guidance: 14+

Can't make the early start time? You can purchase tickets for the Double Bill only which begins at 8.30pm.

Presented by the Barbican

Produced by Manchester International Festival

Commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Schauspielhaus Zürich, ONASSIS STEGI, Kampnagel (Hamburg), Holland Festival, the Barbican and Dance Umbrella, NYU Skirball, Berliner Festspiele and The Arts Centre at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Image credit: Deathbed © Orpheas Emirzas and Maggie the Cat by Tristram Kenton


‘Vivid and life-enhancing...a work of profound emotion‘
The Observer (on Porca Miseria)
‘Through rhythmic juxtaposition and perfect pacing, he creates alternating states of chaos and calm, of joy an excitement, bewilderment and bathos‘
The New York Times
‘A joyous and victorious act of playfulness‘
Manchester Evening News
‘Utterly transfixing and entirely original‘
The Observer (on Maggie the Cat)

The Programme

The first part Deathbed is both art installation and performance, with audiences seated on stage to be closer to the performers. After an interval you will take a seat in the auditorium for the climactic final two parts.

The first part of Porca Miseria is inspired by a meeting between Harrell and African American choreographer Katherine Dunham (1909-2006). Dunham was both a dance legend and a civil-rights activist who staged a hunger strike at age 82 in support of refugees. Part one of Porca Miseria is based on this encounter and all the questions he didn’t get to ask her. Harrell explores the boundaries between dance, theatre and visual arts – it’s equal parts installation and performance, and the audience is free to move around the space.

Running time: 1 hour, 15 mins

Interval (1 or 2 hours depending on booked start time - 5pm or 6.15pm)

O Medea
Part two of Porca Miseria is a short film of a dance performance based on Medea from Greek mythology. Harrell: ‘I see Medea as a woman who is ‘crazy in love’, to quote Beyoncé. Medea, who kills her own children, is a metaphor: murdering the male-defined ideal of motherhood and femininity to free herself.’ An emotional homage to a tragic heroine in an extraordinary exploration of grief.

Running time: 25 mins 

Maggie the Cat
Part three of Harrell’s trilogy Porca Miseria is inspired by Maggie, the troubled but tough central character of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Harrell shifting the perspective away from the rich white family of Maggie's husband Brick to the African-American servants. The night-on-the-town soundtrack is equally at home in the nightclub and the theatre.

Running time: 1 hour

Can't make the early start time of Deathbed? You can book for the Double Bill only which begins at 8.30pm